Stuck in London

I'm one of the hundreds of thousands of stranded passengers in volcanic ash limbo. It has been a pain in the ash.

I'm one of the hundreds of thousands of stranded passengers in volcanic ash limbo.

It has been a pain in the ash.

Right now, they're saying the crisis is over, and I'll be able to fly out of Heathrow Airport in London and be home on Wednesday.

Someone, somewhere has decided to change the tolerance levels of the amount of ash a plane can fly through. I can't help but wonder what scientific equation they came up with to suddenly figure out that some ash through the engine is okay.  

Mind you, I'm not holding my breath on my departure. On Monday, we were told we'd be leaving Tuesday because the volcanic ash had miraculously disappeared. Tuesday came, and I'm still here.

Now I think I'm going somewhere soon, but I'm still going nowhere fast. I feel a bit like Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day.

The first thing people say about being stuck in London is, "Lucky you. It's one of the great cities in the world." That's true.

But it's also one of the most expensive. At Canada House in London, I spoke with other stranded Canadians. We all agreed being in limbo is not as fun as you might think, and the added cost is frightening.  

You always have your bags packed because basically they just keep pushing your flight back 12 hours at a time, cancelling it and then putting you on another flight. So you constantly check in and out of your hotel.

I was talking to Mala Dabideen at Canada House. She's no longer calling her first trip abroad a vacation. She said it's turned into a financial nightmare. So far an extra $2,000 has been added to her trip — money that wasn't in her budget.

Since becoming stranded last Friday, I've been constantly looking at alternative ways of getting home.  While the expert volcano experts talk about the magma and lava, the spewing and the ash and the history about a volcano with a name I can't pronounce.

I can't help but think they don't really know much more about what this volcano will do than I do. Seriously, I know they know more; but sometimes I wonder.

Anyhow, that led me to the Cruise People Ltd. here in London where a lovely Canadian, Kevin Griffin, is the managing director. They've been swamped by other people looking to get across the pond and worried the experts have no clue when it will be safe to fly. 

If I can get to Genoa, Italy, he can get me on a boat that will take two weeks to cross the ocean and with a pitstop in Cuba, straight to Halifax.

But now we are being told that on Wednesday we'll be heading home. So I'm booked to head out in the afternoon and the odyssey will be over. 

Many people I talked to at the train station waiting for the Eurostar and at Canada House couldn't help but wonder if this has been one of the biggest overreactions EVER. 

There has already been a lot of finger pointing between important looking officials who seem to know what they are talking about and look very officious. They talk about the $1 billion loss to the airline industry but they never talk about the stranded, weary travellers who, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, just want to go home Toto. 

I think I'll be home by midnight Wednesday. I sure hope the people who once said it wasn't safe, but now say we're good to go; know what they are talking about. 

The last thing I want to hear are those famous words spoken by the British Airlines pilot back in 1982, "Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a small problem." 

Safe travels to all the other stranded Canadians around the world.